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‘Killed in the line of duty’ conformity advances in committee process

Taking care of families is the goal of a bill that supporters hope will never be needed.

Sponsored by Rep. Jeff Howe (R-Rockville), HF2810 would, in part, amend the state’s definition of “killed in the line of duty” to match that used for the federal Hometown Heroes Act for purposes of awarding benefits to survivors of a public safety officer killed in the line of duty.

Approved Tuesday in the House State Government Finance Committee with a technical amendment, the bill was referred to the House Ways and Means Committee. A companion, SF2743, sponsored by Senate President Sandy Pappas (DFL-St. Paul), awaits action by the Senate Finance Committee.

“The current process in the State of Minnesota requires grieving families to meet three different standards: [Public Employees Retirement Association], the Department of Public Safety and the federal standard,” Howe said. “This has caused confusion and delays in receiving benefits, sometimes up to five years.”

Per a Department of Justice guide to the Hometown Heroes Act, federal law has “a presumption that a public safety officer who suffered a fatal heart attack or stroke up to 24 hours after on-duty, nonroutine stressful or strenuous physical activity or training has died as a direct and proximate result of a personal injury sustained in the line of duty.”

Changes in the bill would expand coverage to all public safety officers, not just peace officers. Additionally, coverage would be expanded to public safety officers who die from work-connected heart attacks, strokes or vascular rupture.

When the bill was approved by the House Public Safety and Crime Prevention Policy and Finance Committee three weeks ago, supporters noted, in part, that because of the job’s nature — including stress, physical demands, smoke inhalation and sleep deprivation — firefighters have a greater risk of a heart attack at younger ages.

The bill would also amend a PERA chapter of law so that the decision to what is deemed killed in the line of duty would be determined by the public safety commissioner.

A final fiscal note is forthcoming.

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